Teaching World Languages: Leveraging Communities
ACTFL’s Community Standard
I get so excited when I think about what’s possible in teaching world languages today. Even something as simple as being able to smile and greet someone who speaks another language out in the community is greatly rewarding for students. Imagine being able to help someone who’s lost. There’s so many opportunities to help people in need.
Of course, these possibilities vary greatly among communities. Some communities with large numbers of immigrants and are culturally diverse naturally offer more opportunities for strong relationships between the communities and the schools. The possibilities are exciting.
Formal structured partnerships and programs can offer language students in programs many opportunities for students to hit high levels of language proficiency. Think about dual enrollment where students can study languages, not commonly offered at our secondary schools, like Farsi, Russian, or Arabic. Universities can also offer courses at much higher levels for native speakers in linguistically advanced students. Businesses can offer real life work experience to our students. Consider students leaving learning about international banking, or helping immigrants and refugees. Consider what they can do to help a natural disaster like hurricane Harvey. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States and one of the most culturally diverse. Think about how strong those partnerships can be.
Businesses can also support language programs with donations or scholarships to study language abroad to our students. Places with a lot of cultural and linguistic diversity also offer students the chance to use their skills. Think about cities like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Students can build their skills and relationships with local restaurants or grocery stores.
What about programs that are in more remote areas? The Internet and mobile technology has created the largest, most connected, the most culturally and linguistically diverse community in the history of the world. It is entirely possible to learn any language from anywhere as part of this community. Your program can also be part of this community. Our students are connected whether they like it or not, and whether we like it or not. Let’s teach them how to use this amazing, ever-expanding, and improving resource to become the culturally and linguistically competent speakers of more than one language that we strive for them to be.
Connecting with native speakers online is one way to utilize this resource. I love having guest speakers in my class. I think it’s super important for students to be able to feel comfortable talking to each other and the teacher, but what about beyond the classroom? Apps like Google Hangouts and Meet make it completely possible to have a native speaker from anywhere in the world come to your classroom.
I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career. I’ve had friends who were able to come talk to my students about the environment from Spain, a relative from Venezuela was able to speak to my students about their life, and a friend from Colombia who knew a lot about coffee was able to come give an immersive, interactive experience with my students. But those personal connections that are geographically close to you, don’t have to be the only guest speakers that you have in your class. Just as you can have a person from down the street in your class, you can also have someone in your language class from Buenos Aires.
There are lots of places to find native speakers who are giving lessons online, and for a small fee, you can host them in your classroom. You can also Google and search them in places like those Google groups and Facebook.
My students always prepare for their interviews with native speakers using a Google Doc. It’s collaborative so we get no repeat questions. You modify this depending on the level of your students and the theme. The students are also required to edit everyone’s work so that they have all the characters are done correctly, spelling is done correctly, and they have a clean document to work on. They print the document out, and do the interviews. At the end, they fill in gaps. For example, if somebody didn’t catch the answers to one of the questions, then their classmates gives it to them–an effective speaking activity. You can also record this so students who are absent can do the listening. You also now have an archive of great, authentic listening comprehension questions.
It’s entirely possible for students to speak to people all over the world from the safety of their own home and supervised by their parents. If they don’t have the money to go study abroad right away, that doesn’t have to limit their interaction with target language and culture.
Instagram. They’re using it, and they love it. Consider doing a class Instagram account. You can teach them all the hashtags for them to find enjoyable, relevant posts in the target language. As a class, everyone can also contribute. It’s a great opportunity to write, and it’s a great opportunity to show them how to use this tool responsibly to learn languages in your world language teaching.
Pinterest. I think often people think of Pinterest as the go-to place for wedding decorations and recipes and dream boards, and it’s great for all those things, but it’s actually a huge search engine as well. It is also great for bookmarking.
Make a class Pinterest account. You can name your boards based on the things that you need to share with your students. For example, French grammar might be a board, and all of your pins are great resources that teach French grammar. You might have a board called verbs with great resources. Interacting with these boards can help your students see how many people are sharing tools in their target language. They’ll find great infographics and study resources that are going to help them learn a new language, and enjoy themselves doing it.
YouTube. People love YouTube. YouTube is this ever-expanding resource of content from all over the world. Students can do exercise videos in a target language. They can get those same makeup and video game tutorials and dance videos, all through YouTube. In fact, it is one of the biggest search engines in the world.
Consider making a class YouTube channel. You don’t have to post anything. Make your own playlist and start curating these resources of music videos in the target language, your tutorials perhaps or tutorials that you’ve found to help flip your classroom.
As responsible educators, we know how important it is to keep our students safe. We also want to maximize their learning with useful, relevant, well-vetted, curated, structured programs and content. We’ll continue to do this, but we can’t deny the fact that they’re spending a lot of their time on these sites and sites similar to them. Let’s teach them how to use these resources to effectively access target language content. Not only are they going to make huge strides in their learning, they’re going to enjoy themselves, which is going to keep them going. Keeping them going, having them have enjoyable success in their language studies is going to do nothing, but support our programs.
How do you leverage communities in your world language teaching?
Looking for more ideas? Check these out here: http://reallifelanguage.com/reallifelanguageblog/2015/09/11/world-language-class-activities/
Read how to use Google Apps (including getting guest speakers for your class). http://reallifelanguage.com/reallifelanguageblog/2017/02/22/google-apps-language-classroom/